Minding Your Mind: Fighting mental health stigma one talk at a time

The images evoked by the phrase “mental health” are too often based on false stereotypes and misconceptions. One of four people suffers from mental illness, but this is not apparent or obvious. Most are certainly not homeless or disabled by a severe psychosis that requires inpatient treatment. In fact, most are people who are part of our everyday lives: friends, colleagues, family members, and classmates.

As a society, we don’t stigmatize a child who has severe asthma or juvenile diabetes. He or she is given sympathy, treatment and support. We should view people with mental health disorders in the same context: as people who have a physical ailment that can be treated successfully given today’s range of therapies. An individual with a mental health disorder is normal, just like the individual who suffers from diabetes or asthma. Unfortunately, many still don’t understand this.

That is why organizations like Minding Your Mind are fielding programs to dispel these false images.

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What’s the problem?

Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among young people ages 14-24. Anxiety, depression, and other stress-related disorders are occurring at a record pace in young people. Research studies have demonstrated that over 90% of people that die from suicide have one or more psychiatric disorders at the time of their death.

The data from numerous studies clearly reveal that untreated mental disorders have considerable costs to adolescents, their families and our society in general. Schools are responsible for the academic achievement of their student body, but most do not have the additional time, budget or staff to address the mental health of their students.

However, self-injurious behaviors as well as difficulty in maintaining healthy peer and familial relationships are outcomes that can be prevented. When the early signs are recognized and treated, the likelihood that a young person will engage in risky behavior or develop a severe or chronic mental illness is much less likely. Early intervention efforts are effective in contributing to the overall mental well-being of children by reducing delinquency, substance abuse, risky sexual behaviors and school failure.

What’s the solution?

A key to encouraging treatment is to end the suffering in silence that has a root cause — stigma. By engaging in open discussions to dispel misconceptions, more people will seek treatment. This will ultimately yield a broad range of benefits to families as well as our society.

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Minding Your Mind’s primary objective is to provide mental health education to adolescents, teens and young adults, their parents, teachers and school administrators. Their goal is to reduce the stigma and destructive behaviors often associated with mental health issues. Treatment is available, yet only 3 out of 10 individuals needing help actually seek help. Minding Your Mind Programs move away from crisis-based response to prevention through education.

Minding Your Mind’s educational programs provide information regarding signs and symptoms of these disorders, in addition to stressing that they are treatable and treatment is available. Since the age of onset of most psychiatric disorders is typically during adolescence, it is essential that the proper information be brought to the attention of secondary school educators, counselors, students and their parents.

How it works

Minding Your Mind trains young adults who have suffered and consider themselves to be in recovery from a major mental health crisis. Those young adult presenters visit schools and other community groups to tell their stories of hope and recovery and to let students know that help is available. Open discussion works to reduce stigma and promotes help seeking behavior.

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Additionally, Minding Your Mind offers three Suicide Prevention Education Trainings for teachers that are listed in the Best Practice Registry under suicide prevention. These programs take place during teacher training days and conferences. Minding Your Mind programs also include a mindfulness-based stress reduction course, anti-bullying programs, and a multi-session peer support program.

How to get involved

You can make a monetary donation to Minding Your Mind directly on their website.

Alternatively, you can use your big day to help fight the stigma surrounding mental illness by creating a charitable registry in support of this wonderful organization.



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